The EU published its intention to grant the PGI status in April, giving other European countries six months to raise any objections. But since none have been received the PGI will now go through automatically.
PGI is a legal protection which works somewhat like a trademark to prevent imitation of geographically unique products. From now on, only pies made to a strict recipe within an 1800-square-mile zone in the East Midlands can lay claim to the Melton Mowbray name.
Protecting local tradition
The Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association (MMPPA) states: “By gaining PGI status we confirm Melton Mowbray's position as the heart of an important rural economy [and] promote our rural region and fine food heritage.”
Under the new PGI definition, the Melton Mowbray variety must be made with at least 30 per cent uncured pork, be baked unsupported in order to give it a distinctive bowed shape and, crucially, must be produced within the area round the Leicestershire town of Melton Mowbray. Other companies can still call their products pork pies, just not Melton Mowbray pork pies.
Securing the status has been a drawn-out process, starting with the formation of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association in 1998. The Department of Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) then backed the association’s bid for PGI status in 2004, but the process stalled when pork pie manufacturers Northern Foods took the government to court early in 2005, arguing that the geographical area concerned was artificially large. In November 2006, it dropped the action after being given five years to relocate its manufacturing to within the PGI area.
Northern Foods sold its Wiltshire factory, which produced 80 million pork pies under the Melton Mowbray name each year, to Pork Farms in 2007. The new owners then closed the factory and moved to within the zone soon after.
The pies have now been entered into the EU Journal and are in the final stages of registration.
The Melton Mowbray pork pie joins about 40 other British products to receive the protection, including Jersey Royal potatoes, Scotch beef and Newcastle brown ale.
Defra has also put Cornish pasties forward for EU approval, and the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association is hopeful that its success might help the Cornish cause.
MMPPA chairman and local councillor Matthew O'Callaghan said: "I hope that this move encourages other regional producers to seek the recognition they deserve for their distinctive products. This is good news for all regional foods in Britain, they now have a bright future ahead of them.”